Web-Based Petition Calls for End to Cuba Embargo

By Rick Docksai | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A web-based petition urging President Bush to lift the travel embargo on Cuba is on its way to his desk.

Cubacentral.com, an Internet site that wants to change U.S. policy toward Cuba, is sending the petition to the White House this week. The website is jointly sponsored by the Center for International Policy (CIP), the Latin America Working Group (LAWG), and Global Exchange.

The petition was launched May 20, and had 6,263 signatures as of Monday evening. It was composed in response to a May 20 speech President Bush delivered in Miami, Fla., in which he denounced Cuban leader Fidel Castro as a "tyrant" and a "relic from another era" and refused to consider easing the Cuba embargo.

"The stated goals of the [current U.S.] policy have not been met in 42 years," said Sarah Stevens, a spokeswoman for the CIP. "It's pretty clear that there needs to be some new thinking."

The petition reads, "Rather than repeating the failed policies of the last forty-two years, rather than responding to political pressures from extreme elements of the Cuban exile community in places like Miami, you should follow President Carter's example and his advice: end the embargo.

"Stop the ban on travel. Promote real reconciliation between people of the United States and Cuba. It's in our interest and it's the common sense approach," the petition says.

But the petition isn't likely to bring about changes, given President Bush's past remarks on Cuba.

"I know what trade means with a tyrant," Bush said in his Miami speech. "It means that we will underwrite tyranny, and we cannot let that happen."

He vowed to veto any legislation that called for easing the embargo, though the president said he would ease restrictions on religious and other nongovernmental organizations to offer humanitarian aid.

Bush also expressed willingness to negotiate direct mail service between Cuba and the United States, and to offer scholarships to Cuban students and professionals "who try to build independent civil institutions in Cuba" to study at schools in the U.S.

The president's refusal to end the embargo has been criticized by some Democrats, who point out that the policy has done little to bring about change in the island nation's government. Sen. Byron Dorgan, (D-N.D.) called Bush's speech "a barrelful of politics with a thimblefull of policy."

The embargo has been in place since 1960. President John F. Kennedy enacted it in response to Fidel Castro's communist takeover of Cuba.

The petition comes as the House considers an amendment to aTreasury appropriations bill. The amendment, proposed by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), would stop government funding of the ban on travel to Cuba.

The measure passed 240 to 186 in the House last year and by a similar margin the year before, although Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that Bush would most likely veto such legislation if it should reach his desk.

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